Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Approached it like a 4th innings chase: Axar on why India batted again. Axar feels the wicket has slowed down a bit
Axar feels the wicket has slowed down a bit
India have further consolidated their position of dominance in the Mumbai Test, finishing 399 runs ahead of New Zealand at stumps on Day 3. After having skittled out the visitors for 62 on the second day, India opted to bat again despite holding a massive first innings lead.
Led by Mayank Agarwal's half-century, and handy contributions from Cheteshwar Pujara, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli and Axar Patel, India piled on 276 for 7 before declaring their second innings. It was almost a simulation exercise for a fourth-innings chase, says Axar.
“It's a five day match, and we're still in the third day,” Axar said at the end of third day's play. “The aim was to bat since we had a lot of time remaining in the match. Such situations don't arise often. We were trying to explore a situation as if we're chasing in the last innings when the ball is turning. We were trying to better ourselves assuming we'll get such a situation in the fourth innings some day.”
Even as New Zealand put on an improved display in their second essay, courtesy Daryl Mitchell's half-century and Henry Nicholls's unbeaten 36, they find themselves will a tall task at hand going into the penultimate day of the contest.
Axar, who dismissed Mitchell on Sunday, believes that the pitch at the Wankhede Stadium has slowed down and made it easier for batsmen as the match has progressed. However, he is confident that India have plans and ample time to counter that challenge; patience though will be the key.
“Two days earlier, the ball was bouncing a bit due to the moisture” he assessed. “As the match is progressing, it's becoming a little slow. It's easier for batsmen to play off the backfoot. But we've played in such conditions. So we know what to do. We have to keep patience on such a wicket.”
With five wickets down, India will have to separate the last recognised frontline batting pair to enter New Zealand's lower order – which has a fairly strong batting ability. While Nicholls was steady as went to stumps unbeaten, he was accompanied by Rachin Ravindra, who had helped the visitors avoid a defeat in the thrilling contest in Nagpur last week. On a turning track, he neatly saw through the challenge posed by the Indian trio.
Axar though believes it'll be important to not panic in such a situation. “There is no special plan (for Rachin),” he said. “We've spoken to our bowling coach to understand his weaknesses and given how the pitch is, we will try to bowl to his weaker areas. It's important not to panic, we need to be patient. In Kanpur, we didn't have a lot of time. But now we have two days to bowl, which is a big advantage.”
Axar, who has had a fantastic year since making his Test debut earlier in 2021, against England, will hold the key as India look to pick the last five New Zealand wickets to secure another series win. It will help India continue its unbeaten run in homes Test series, the last of which they lost nearly nine years ago.
However, Axar believes the hard grind of the players should not be discredited for the home success, where touring teams have had a tough time. “It feels good to dominate,” he admitted. “We've been dominating for quite a few years at home. It depends on how you keep the focus and how you play to your strengths. You don't take the contest lightly just because you're playing at home. The reason we've been doing well is because we put in that effort in every series. When the team is playing consistently, a culture is created and we follow that culture.”
Axar finds himself amidst a sea of spin bowling all-rounders contesting intensely to find a spot in the national team. Their presence, in a way, has been the key reason for not only India's success but also for them to field a good combination in home Tests. While his bowling has stood out in his short Test career so far, he also hopes to make the best of his batting abilities lower down the order.
“It was a dream start to my career – the way my England series panned out and how I'm performing against New Zealand. It has been a good year for me. I'm only thinking on ways to better myself, improve my cricket. I'm reaping the rewards of all the hard work that I had done over the years now.
“Whenever I'm in the team, the team management has shown the confidence in my batting. There were times when I got chances but couldn't use them. This time when I got my chances, i was able to convert them. Obviously it will be beneficial for me as well as the team. When Jaddu, Ash bhai and I play in a team as three all-rounders, it helps out the batsmen as well as the bowlers. It's a very good sign. If I contribute with the bat, it helps me as well as the team.”